Size is relative : use of relational concepts by wild hummingbirds
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Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) will readily learn the location and the colour of rewarded flowers within their territory. But if these birds could apply a relational concept such as ‘the larger flowers have more nectar’, they could forego learning the locations of hundreds of individual flowers. Here, we investigated whether wild male territorial rufous hummingbirds might use ‘larger than’ and ‘smaller than’ relational rules and apply them to flowers of different sizes. Subjects were trained to feed consistently from one of two flowers. Although the flowers differed only in size, the reward was always contained in the same-size flower. The birds were then tested on a choice of two empty flowers: one of the familiar size and the other a novel size. Hummingbirds applied relational rules by choosing the flower that was of the correct relational size rather than visiting the flower of the size rewarded during training. The choices made by the hummingbirds were not consistent with alternative mechanisms such as peak shift or associative learning. We suggest that while hummingbirds are very good at remembering the spatial locations of rewarding flowers, they would be able to use relative rules when foraging in new and changing environments.
Brown , T , Hurly , T A , Healy , S D & Tello-Ramos , M C 2022 , ' Size is relative : use of relational concepts by wild hummingbirds ' , Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences , vol. 289 , no. 1971 , 20212508 . https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.2508
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the originalauthor and source are credited.
DescriptionThis work was supported by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (S.D.H.), the University of Lethbridge and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (RGPIN 121496–2003; T.A.H.).
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